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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
John 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-21

After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, there is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

The miracle of the loaves, the feeding of the five thousand, is one of those signs that is recorded in all the four Gospels. There must be some very special reason for this, otherwise the Spirit of God would not have been so careful that each of the Evangelists should relate the account of this miracle. There are a few differences in the way the story is presented, such as we would expect from four independent writers, some of whom were eye-witnesses and some who heard of it through others. These diversities only make more evident the fact that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, for had the four men, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, planned to make up a story about the Man called Jesus and foist it upon the world as a pretended divine revelation, they would have been very careful indeed to see that every incident was related in exactly the same way. But instead, there are differences according to the viewpoint of each one.

Matthew, as we have seen, dwells upon the promised Messiah. Mark emphasizes those things that bring out the Servant character of our Lord Jesus, for that was the object he had in mind in writing to show Christ as the Servant of the Godhead and of man. Luke emphasizes those things that speak of His holy humanity. John deals more particularly with that which would show that Christ is the Son of God, for this gospel, as we have seen, is the gospel of the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not told in John exactly when these events took place, The Synoptics show us that they occurred just after the death of John the Baptist, as the Lord was beginning the last year-and-a-half of His ministry.

We read, “After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias” (v. 1). Tiberias is on the western shore of this lovely lake. Jesus crossed from there over to the opposite shore, where a multitude followed Him because they saw the miracles that He did. Everywhere He went there were throngs who followed Him because of the wonderful works of power that He wrought. That did not mean that they recognized Him as the Son of God, but they were stirred and their curiosity aroused, and sometimes there was heart interest. “Can He be some prophet raised from the dead? Is it Elijah who is to come, or is He indeed the promised Messiah?”

Jesus went up into a mountain, a high tableland by the Sea of Galilee, and there He taught the people. John tells us the Passover was nigh. It was called “a feast of Jehovah” in the Old Testament, but it is termed “a feast of the Jews.” They had made it their own feast, because the One whom the Passover typified was right in their midst, and they did not recognize Him. It had no real value anymore.

In the evening, we read, that “when Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (v. 5). They had been with Him all that day. They had listened to the marvelous words that came from His mouth. We know, from other records, that it was the disciples who took the initiative and said, “Send them home, for there is no possible way of feeding them.” But John knew that the Lord Jesus had thought of that already. Jesus turned to Philip and said, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” We can depend upon it that whatever interest the disciples had in the great throng of people, the interest of the Lord Jesus was much greater than theirs. That is a great encouragement to us who have so little concern and compassion for the throngs about us, but oh, how wonderful that the compassions of Christ are going out to men everywhere! He is far more interested in their welfare than His servants can possibly be!

If we seem at times to fail to enter into the seriousness of things, and our hearts are not moved as they should be by humanity’s crying need, the great heart of the blessed Son of God is throbbing with pity and compassion. He looks upon the multitude with yearning love as He did long ago. He looked at them and He said, “I must feed them. I must meet their need”-He, the blessed Bread of God that had come down from heaven! So He asked, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” It was not that He did not know what to do, but “this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (v. 6). What comfort in that! Here was an emergency-thousands of people without any food! If they had to seek it themselves, they would faint before they could get it. They were a long way from home. But the Lord Jesus Christ had already planned to meet that need.

Am I addressing someone who finds himself in peculiarly difficult and trying circumstances, and who is wondering if God has forgotten or if He has lost all interest in you? Let me tell you this: if you have trusted Him as your own Savior, His heart is always toward you, and He knows what He is going to do. He is not going to let you down. He is not going to leave you in the lurch. It may seem as though there is no possible way of meeting your present need, but He knows what He will do. We look at the things that we can see. We can become so discouraged and disturbed as we take circumstances into account, but our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is never affected by circumstances.

He knows and loves and cares,

Nothing this truth can dim:

He gives the very best to those

Who leave the choice with Him.

Go back into your Bible and see those Old Testament characters who had trials. Jacob was in trouble. There was famine over all the land. One of his sons had been held in captivity because Joseph wanted to see his brother, Benjamin, but Jacob was determined that Benjamin should not go down to Egypt. But in his distress he does not know what to do, and his other sons say, “We cannot go without Benjamin.” Jacob throws up his hands and says, “All these things are against me” (Genesis 42:36). Why, you know, dear friends, at that very time God was planning for him in a wonderful way, and it was not long before the brothers came and took him and his family to Egypt, where he was provided for abundantly. Do you feel like wringing your hands and crying out in despair, “Everything is going wrong. All these things are against me.” Oh, no, they are not. God is for you. If God is for you, who can be against you? Our blessed Lord is for you. “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet apart from sin” (Hebrews 4:15), because “he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (2:18). And He knows what He is going to do. He is planning for you, my brother, at this very moment. He is planning for you, my sister. Believe it. Trust Him, and be assured that He is going to undertake in His own good time for you.

And so our blessed Lord here knew what He was about to do. He was going to meet the need in His own wonderful way. But Philip did not understand, and he answered Him and said, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7). Two hundred pennyworth-the denarius, called the penny here, was a full day’s wages for a man in those days. While it was in value about an English shilling or a little less, yet it had much greater purchasing power in that land. So Philip says, “Why, Lord, it would take about two hundred days’ wages to provide bread enough so that each one might take a little, and then where would we get it out here?” It seemed they were up against an insuperable difficulty. But there are no insuperable difficulties with Christ. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient that every one might take a little. Jesus was not going to give them just a little bit of a lunch, but He was going to give them a good full meal that would satisfy them.

Just at that time Andrew came up. He seems to be always the man who fits into the difficult place. He has been scurrying around evidently to see what he can find. He says, “I have run across a lad with a little lunch.” Yes, there always is a lad in a big throng. He slips about among the crowd. When the Lord wins the hearts of the lads, you know what they are like. This young lad was there that morning. He had said probably, “Mother, I want to go to hear the great Preacher.” So she put a lunch together. And Andrew says, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (v. 9). And yet I think that after all Andrew was not hopeless. He is asking, “Is there any way in which You can make these enough?”

So Jesus said, “Make the men sit down.” And John tells us, “Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand” (v. 10). What a throng to be fed with five loaves and two fishes, not even half a fish for a thousand. These are the people, and here is the banquet. “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks [in perfect confidence that God would meet every need], he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would” (v. 11). The supply seemed inexhaustible. Five thousand happy people were enjoying the feast Jesus had spread for them. Then He says, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost” (v. 12). He gives freely, but will not waste anything. And so they went about and gathered up the fragments-twelve big basketsful were the fragments of five barley loaves that remained. Why, to begin with they said, “We have nothing to feed this multitude with,” and at the close they had a full basket for each of the twelve disciples! There was plenty for all. He does not do things in a niggardly way. My dear brother and sister, if you are in trouble, ask regally, for you are coming to a King. Do not be afraid to put Him to the test. He is able to meet every need. “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

They filled the twelve baskets with the fragments that remained, and “then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (John 6:14). What made them say that? Well, these people knew their Bibles. They used the book of Psalms in their homes, sang them at the temple services, and knew that in Psalms 132:15 it spoke of the Messiah of Israel, the Prophet and King who was to come into the world. It reads, “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.” “Why,” they said, “this must be He. That is the very thing He has done. See how He has satisfied us here with bread. This must be He indeed.”

What prophet did they mean? The one of whom Moses spoke. “Him shall ye hear in all things” (Acts 3:22). And so they said, “This must be the Prophet. This must be the coming Savior.” But the time had not come when Jesus was to fulfill all those Old Testament prophecies and take over the kingdom. He was going to do that in God’s due time. But before that He was to go back to heaven and carry on a wonderful ministry as our great High Priest, and take out a people from the Gentiles to be His bride in the day of His power.

So He withdrew Himself from the ship and went up into a mountain to pray. We have a beautiful picture of what He has been doing ever since He went back to heaven. They wanted to make Him King, but up into the heights He went. He went up there to talk to the Father, to intercede on behalf of His disciples, who were still in the world amidst the trials and difficulties. This is an illustration of the One who was on earth the Prophet, and who now has ascended to heaven to be our Intercessor, our Advocate with the Father.

“And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea” (John 6:16). The other Gospels tell us they went across the sea to Capernaum, but we are told the wind was contrary. John does not tell us that, but the other Gospels do. “And they entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum” (v. 17a). There is a kind of bay, and they are just crossing the bay when suddenly a storm came up. They come up very suddenly on the Sea of Galilee. “It was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them” (v. 17b). In this you may see a picture of the people of God now going over the dark sea of time, and Jesus, while He is indeed present in the Spirit, is personally absent. “And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew” (v. 18). They could have turned about and been driven before the wind, but that would have taken them back, and Jesus had told them to go on. So on they attempted to go. The waves rose high, and it looked as though they would be wrecked. Had Jesus forgotten? Was He indifferent? No, my brother and sister, no more than He is indifferent to your distress. No, He could see. Even in the dark, He could see. He even knows our thoughts. He knows our sorrows. He knows all about every difficulty we have to face.

There He was pleading and praying, and they were tossed on the sea. His heart was concerned about them, and so at last He comes to them. And some day He is coming to us. Even now He comes in His loving care to give us just the help we need when we are in difficulty. We read that “when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid” (v. 19). It takes faith to see Him like that today. They could see Him by sight. We cannot see Him with the natural eye, but we walk by faith, and not by sight. No matter what the storms of life, no matter how high the waves, how serious the tempest, trust in Him, count on Him, and look out in faith, and you will see Him walking on the waves. We read, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3). But you know it is possible to be so occupied with the things of earth that we do not even recognize Jesus when He comes to help us. We are so occupied with our own affairs, our own circumstances, that we do not know Him when He comes to give deliverance.

They were afraid because they thought He was a phantom or a ghost. Oh, now things are worse than ever. Circumstances so blind the eyes that we fail to discern it is really Jesus when He comes to bring the rest we long for.

But the Savior drew near and said, “It is I be not afraid” (v. 20). And so He speaks to every anxious heart today who is crying for help, “It is I be not afraid.” Do not allow yourself to be oppressed with your difficulties. Once one man asked another, “Well, brother, how are you getting along?” The other looked up with a gloomy face and said, “Well, I am doing pretty well under the circumstances.” The other said, “Oh, I am sorry to hear you are under the circumstances. Christ delights to lift us above all circumstances.” That is just what He does. We do not need to be under the circumstances. Paul the apostle had more difficulties than we ever had to suffer, but he said, “I have learned to be abased and to abound” (see Philippians 4:12). God says He will never leave you nor forsake you.

Now Jesus says, “Poor, troubled souls, do not be afraid, I have come to help you.” “Then they willingly received him into the ship” (John 6:21). They said, “O Lord, if it be Thou, come into the boat with us.” He did, and “immediately” everything was changed and “the ship was at the land whither they went” (v. 21). You see, they were nearly at the port, and they did not know it. Dear friend, your ship is nearly at port; do not give up in despair. He is waiting to show you how marvelously He can meet your case. “Commit thy way unto the LORD, trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” But am I speaking to someone today who says, “Yes, it is all very well to speak to those Christian people that way. But look at me, I do not know Him at all. I do not know how to be a Christian?” Well, dear friends, we have a message for you. Listen to this, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (1:11-12).

Are you willing to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior? Will you trust in Him as your Redeemer? Will you believe His Word, which tells you that He was delivered for your offenses and that He was raised again for your justification? Will you act on that word which says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9)? Wiry, you see, the moment you do that, He takes you in grace and saves you. “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). And when you trust Him, then you will know that He came not only to forgive your sins, but to take charge of your life. Why not hand yourself over to Him today? Why not look up and say, “Lord Jesus, I give myself to You to be Yours, body and soul and spirit, and henceforth will You not undertake for me?” He will. He promises to take charge of those who put their trust in Him.


Verses 22-40

The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when earnest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

In this somewhat lengthy section we have three distinct parts. In verses 22-25 the question is raised by the people as to how the Lord Jesus had conveyed Himself away from that part of the country where He fed the five thousand, and how He could be in Capernaum the following day. They knew, because it had been generally reported, that at the close of the day after He had fed that great multitude He had sent His disciples away, but He Himself had gone into a mountain to pray. They could not understand how He had traveled from that region to the place where they next found Him. “The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, [they got into some of these other boats and came] seeking for Jesus” (vv. 22-24).

Now this looks like a movement of real interest, but one cannot always depend upon outward appearances. It appeared encouraging to see a throng of people seeking after Jesus in this way, who were willing to go to the trouble of crossing the sea to locate Him. It seemed to indicate a real deep and abiding interest. But after all it was a very shallow kind of thing. They were not so interested in Christ Himself and had no sense of needing a Savior, though they may have hoped that He would prove to be the promised Messiah, for they thought of Him as one who could give them temporal blessings, could provide them with bread to satisfy their hunger.

So they came seeking for Jesus, and when they found Him they said, “Rabbi, when earnest thou hither?” (v. 25). They knew nothing about what had taken place during the night. That is, His prayer upon the mountain or the disciples tossing in the midst of the sea, the Lord interceding for them, then going to them on the water and being received by them into the ship, after which they soon reached their desired haven. All this was unknown to this throng who came seeking Jesus and asking, “Rabbi, when earnest thou hither?” But Jesus used this opportunity to strengthen His testimony and to explain the real reason for His coming to earth. He saw through this apparent interest. He knew what was really m their hearts. Very often people come, for instance, to a gospel meeting and will begin to talk very religiously. But it does not take long to find that what is really on their hearts is a temporal need-food or clothing-and somehow they feel that Christians ought to be interested in providing these things. And Christians are interested and are glad to minister to these needs, but their ability is often very small. When people come making a pretense of religion, it is putting things on a very low level indeed. It would be far better for them to be frank and say, “It is not my soul that I am interested in, but my empty stomach, or it is a coat I need.” Then one would know what to do for them to the very best of his ability. It should not be necessary for people to pretend an interest in religion in order to get temporal help. But that is what these people did. They pretended to a real interest in Christ, but He knew they were only thinking of loaves and fishes.

In the second section, verses 26-34, we have the answer of Jesus. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (v. 26). Not because the signs proved anything to them, but because they had a good meal! He provided what they needed yesterday, and they would like Him to do the same today. They hoped He would continue to meet their temporal needs, but He was concerned about their spiritual need, for after all, temporal need is for only a little while. But if men live and die without their spiritual need being met, their distress will continue throughout eternity. So He said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (v. 27).

What did He mean? Did He mean we are not to toil at our daily work to have the proper necessities of life? Not at all. Again and again we are urged to be diligent and careful about these things. Why, then, did He say, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth”? He meant that we are not to make it the supreme thing. The one great important thing to remember is that this life is but as a vapor and will soon be gone. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat [that spiritual food] which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed” (v. 27).

Ungodly men of the world say sometimes, “Religion is just an opiate of the people to get them occupied with spiritual things and tell them about bread from heaven to satisfy their souls, so they will forget about the hunger of their bodies.” But that is a libel on Christianity. All through the centuries no one has been more concerned about ministering to the temporal needs of men than those who have truly known and loved the Lord Jesus Christ. They have ever been the ones who have been most interested in relieving the circumstances of their fellow men, and yet we would never want to put temporal relief before spiritual. We are to put first things first: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33)- these things that your heavenly Father knows you have need of. All of these things are important, tremendously important, in their place, but there is something of greater importance, and that is the “meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” And He declares that it is only the Son of Man who can give this satisfying food for the soul. That is what He came for, to seek and to save that which was lost. He came from heaven in lowly grace and became the Son of Man in order that He might meet the needs of lost sinners.

“Him hath God the Father sealed.” When He publicly dedicated Himself to give His life for us in His baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit of God was seen descending like a dove and abiding on Him, and the Father’s voice said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). That was His sealing.

He had spoken of not working simply for temporal things. Labor, He had commanded, for the food that endures unto everlasting life. They sought to parry this by inquiring, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28). They are thinking of the law that God gave at Sinai. They say, “Tell us what we must do in order that we may work the works of God, that we may obtain life eternal? What shall we do?” And Jesus answers, and opens up the truth of the grace of God. He answered and said unto them, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (v. 29). “Well,” you say, “believing is not working at all.” No, but it is evidence of divine work in the soul. That is why we are told, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). What is the gift of God?-the salvation or the faith? We may include them both. We are told elsewhere that the gift of God is eternal life, but it is also perfectly clear that faith is the gift of God. No merely natural man has faith of himself. “All men have not faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2).

But somebody says, “If faith is the gift of God and I, as a poor sinner, have no faith, how then can I believe?” Scripture says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), or, “Faith cometh by a report, and the report by the Word of God.” In other words, God has sent a message to man, and we are to have faith in the One of whom that message speaks, and so Jesus said, “If you speak of work, this is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” There is no use talking about working to please God until you have received the gift of God. That is why we are told that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” But immediately the Holy Spirit adds, “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

And so there is no such thing as meriting salvation by work. There is no such possibility as earning eternal life by effort. “This is the work of God, that ye believe.” They were to take God at His word.

But these people were not serious. They were not really interested in their eternal welfare. They were concerned about getting a good meal, such as the Lord had spread for them the day before. So they asked, “What sign shewest thou then? … what dost thou work?” (John 6:30). They knew already. They knew He was going about healing the sick, that He was delivering men and women from all kinds of dire maladies, that He was unstopping the ears of the deaf. Some of them heard that He had raised the dead. But they were thinking of temporal benefit for themselves, just as a lot of people today think of Christianity as a means of bettering their worldly or physical circumstances.

They said, “What sign do you work?” And then they added (and thought that He did not see through it), “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” They can quote Scripture, you see. “What sign dost thou work?” “Is there any manna around? We are looking for bread. Moses fed the people for forty years with bread from heaven. Can you do that? We heard that you did it yesterday. Could you do it today? Then we would believe that you are the Messiah. Is it not written of the Messiah that He will feed the people with bread? Well, here we are, give us bread from heaven.” But He answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven [in the sense of the true bread that is really worth while]; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (vv. 32-33). Jesus came down from heaven. The manna sustained Israel for forty years in the wilderness. Jesus is the Bread that sustains for time and eternity.

Consider the manna, how beautiful it was, like the falling snow. That speaks of Jesus, the Holy One, the pure One, the unblemished One, in whom was neither sin nor flaw of any kind. That manna fell upon the dew, which is a type of the Spirit of God, speaking of the day when God is going to pour out His Spirit upon Israel. He says, “I will be as the dew unto Israel” (Hosea 14:5). That is, the Spirit of God coming down in refreshing power upon them. The manna fell upon the dew, and Jesus came in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was born of the Holy Spirit, of a virgin mother. His life was lived in the power of the Spirit, and when at last He died, it was by the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. And then-oh, notice this-the manna came not upon the high mountains where the people had to climb up to get it nor did it fall into some deep ravine where they had to go down hundreds of feet to find it, but it fell upon the ground all around them and covered the plain about the encampment of Israel, so that when an Israelite stepped out of his tent door in the morning he either had to trample upon the manna or stoop down and gather it as God’s good gift!

It illustrates the place that Jesus has taken in lowly grace. Have you trodden ruthlessly upon His love? Or have you received Him into your heart in faith as your own personal Savior? Rise and feed on Him, the Bread of God which came down from heaven. Which are you doing today? “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

And so Jesus puts to one side all their hinting about temporal food and bread to satisfy the natural man, and says, “There is something far more important than bread for the physical man, and that is bread for the spirit of man, the Bread of Life.” But they were so dull, as men and women are today, as we all were once, until our eyes were opened. They said to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread” (6:34), but they were only thinking of temporal help. They had not understood that which He had spoken to them.

In the third section, from verses 35-40, He makes it even clearer and says, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (v. 35). What a tremendous proclamation! He has been fulfilling this promise for nineteen hundred years. Many have gone to Him, hungry, distressed, discouraged, and they have received Him in faith and have found heart satisfaction.

Note the simplicity of it-“I Myself am the Bread of life.” Salvation is in a person, our Lord Jesus Himself. Remember when Simeon was worshipping in the temple and Mary and Joseph entered with the little Baby, and Simeon said, “There is the salvation of God,” and He hastened to the Baby and took Him in his arms and he said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Yes, God’s salvation is in a person, and that person His own blessed Son. To receive Him is to be saved. To receive Him is to have life eternal. But sad it is that no matter how clearly the message is given, very few believe: “But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not” (v. 36).

Then He falls back on that great mystery of the divine sovereignty of God. He says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (v. 37). Thank God for such an assurance as that! God will never be defeated. His purpose will never fail of accomplishment. All that the Father gives to Jesus shall come to Him. You do not like that, perhaps. You say you do not believe in election or predestination. Then you will have to tear a number of pages out of your Bible, for there are many of them that magnify God’s sovereign electing grace. But do not misunderstand them. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that God has predetermined before man is born that he will be lost or saved, but Scripture says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Moody was right when he used to say that, “The ‘whosoever wills’ are the elect and the ‘whosoever won’ts,’ the nonelect.” But there it is, you cannot get around it, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

But we must not overlook our personal responsibility, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Let no man say, “Well, I am afraid I am not elected, and will not be saved.” The question is, Are you willing to come to Jesus? He will in no wise cast out. Whoever you are today, if you will come to Him, He will take you in. You do not have to settle any question of predestination before you come to Jesus. And when you come He receives you, and having come, you may know that you are one whom the Father gave to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verse 38 He says, “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” It was part of the Father’s will that Jesus should save eternally everybody who comes to Him. This is the Father’s will, that He should lose nothing of all which He has given Him. And so, how sure we may be, how certain, as to our full, final salvation, if we but receive Him, the blessed Bread from heaven! “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 40). “Every one.” Notice the individuality of this. Every man, every woman, for himself or herself, “that every one which seeth the Son”-you see Him by faith, by the Word as He is made manifest by the Spirit-“every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him [that is, puts his trust in Him’], may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

What is it, then, to feed upon the Bread of Life? It is to receive Christ Jesus in faith as your own Savior and then day by day to enjoy communion with Him. As you read this blessed Word, as it unfolds one blessed, marvelous truth after another, you are feeding on the living Bread as your soul makes these things your own. Are you still hungering, still thirsting? Do you want the living Bread? Well, then, receive Him now in faith, and if you will accept the testimony God has given, He will receive you. He promises to give you eternal life and to raise you up at the last day.


Verses 41-56

The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

It is a very notable principle in connection with the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ with men that if a soul came to Him who was honestly, earnestly, seeking to know the truth, He undertook to make that truth just as simple as possible so that the wayfaring man could understand. On the other hand, if the Savior presented something that was difficult for the natural mind to receive, and men, instead of recognizing their need and coming to Him for explanation, assumed a haughty, unbelieving attitude, He invariably seemed to make the truth more difficult instead of making it simpler. That is to say, if men will not have the truth of God when it is presented to them but deliberately choose to follow the path of error, they will be blinded to the very truth itself. This principle runs throughout Scripture. You remember how Pharaoh set himself against doing the will of God. We read that God hardened Pharaoh ’s heart. He confirmed the haughty king in his very wickedness. Later on, when the people of Israel chose the path of disobedience, God said, “I…will choose their delusions” (Isaiah 66:4). When we look on into the future to the day when the Antichrist, that last sinister enemy of God and man, shall arise, we are told that in that time if men receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God will send them strong delusion.

 

There is something very serious in this. Great responsibility is put upon the man and woman to whom God’s truth is proclaimed. That truth is given us to be believed. It is not something with which we may play fast and loose. We are called upon to accept it. “Buy the truth and sell it not,” exclaims the writer of the book of Proverbs (23:23). If there is anyone to whom I am speaking today who has not opened his heart to the gospel and received the Savior, do not imagine that it is a small matter if you turn away from that truth. Do not try to persuade yourself that some other day will do just as well. “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Do you imagine that it will be perfectly all right if you wait to make up your mind to come to God when you are ready? When your day comes, you may find that God has withdrawn Himself.

 

When you at last come to knock on the door, you may find that it has been shut and a voice will say, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Matthew 7:23).

 

Cowper has said,

 

Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies:

He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies;

And he who will be cheated to the last,

Delusions strong as hell shall bind him fast.

 

Oh, I beg of you, cherish every evidence that the Holy Spirit is working upon your heart and conscience. Thank Him for the opportunity of hearing the gospel. He has written, “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3).

 

We have seen in our study of this sixth chapter of the gospel of John that Jesus was dealing with a group of selfish people. They were not interested in spiritual realities. So instead of explaining things in a way they might easily take in, when He perceived that they were not interested or concerned about understanding Him, He seems to make things more and more difficult for the natural mind to comprehend.

 

“The Jews…murmured” (John 6:41 ). They talked one to the other instead of coming to Him and saying, “Master, we are ignorant, our minds are darkened. We do not understand, but we long to do so. We do not know what you mean, but we want to know. Master, have pity upon our ignorance and enlighten us.” They murmured and said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” No, He was not. He was the son of Mary, but He had no human father. They knew Him as the son of Joseph in Nazareth and so they say, “Is not He our fellow townsman? What does He mean by talking about coming down from heaven?” They did not address their questions to Jesus, but He heard their murmurs because He knows what is in the heart of man.

 

“Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (vv. 43-44). Yes, that was as though He was deliberately turning away from them, saying, “You are not the people to whom I have come. I have no message for you. No man can come to Me except the Father draw him, and He is not drawing you.” A little while before, He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (v. 37). But they did not come, and therefore were not of those who are drawn of the Father.

 

Hear me, my friend, are you concerned as to whether you are one of those who are drawn of the Father? You can settle that very easily. Have you come to Jesus? Do you desire to come? If in your heart there is the least desire to come, it is the Father who is drawing you to His Son. Oh, cherish the work of the Holy Spirit and instead of resisting His pleadings yield to Him at once. Yield to Him and say, “Blessed Lord, there is so much I do not understand, but I seek enlightenment. Make clear to me the things that are dark, but give me to know that I have been born again in Jesus Christ, that I am to be saved eternally.” You may depend upon it, you will not be left in darkness and perplexity. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (v. 45).

Have you heard? Have you learned of the Father? What is the lesson the Father is teaching? He is seeking to occupy people with the gracious provision He has made in the gift of His blessed Son. The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. In His infinite love He sent Him into the world, that we might live through Him. Listen, then, as little children to the Father. Let Him be your instructor. Let Him teach you and open up to you from the Word the riches of His grace as revealed through His blessed Son. Thus you will be taught of God, and you may know that you are numbered among those whose sins have been eternally settled for. It is not that you will be able to see the Father with your natural eyes, but with the eye of the heart. The only one who has ever actually seen the Father is our blessed Savior Himself, for He says, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (v. 46).

 

But though you and I cannot see Him, we can believe His Word. We hear the message. We accept it in faith and have life eternal. And so Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (v. 47). Let that be an end of all controversy. Let that be an answer to every anxious questioner. How may I know that I am a child of God, that I am accepted of Him, that my sins are forgiven, that I have life eternal? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31 ). “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”

 

I heard Ira D. Sankey tell how he had been anxious for days and months for the assurance of salvation, and had sought for some internal evidence that might make him know that he had eternal life. But as he sat in a meeting he was led to turn to this sixth chapter of John and his eyes fell on this forty-seventh verse, and it came home to his soul with a strangely new and wonderful meaning, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” Mr. Sankey told us that night long years ago in a meeting in San Francisco, that in a moment he saw it, and he looked up and said, “Lord, I believe. I dare to take Thee at Thy word.” And that was the beginning of that great ministry of gospel song to hundreds of thousands of people, carrying the glad message of a full and free salvation.

 

“He that believeth… hath everlasting life.” Do not put anything between “believeth” and “hath.” Not “hopes to have,” but “He that believeth hath everlasting life.” Take God at His word. “I,” says Jesus, “am [the] bread of life” (v. 48). “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead” (vv. 48-49). He says, “Yes, your fathers ate that kind of bread in the wilderness that you long for, but they are dead. I am the ‘bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die’” (v. 50). “I am the living bread” (v. 51a). It is not merely, “I have come to give you the living bread,” but, “I am the living bread. I must be received in faith, and the soul must feed upon Me as the body feeds upon natural bread, in order to be sustained.” “I am the living bread… if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (v. 51).

 

He is looking forward to the cross. In a little while He is to go to that cross. There He is to be immolated as the great sin offering. The sacrifice of old was called the food of the altar, and He says, “There I am going to die, and in thus giving Myself, My body becomes the bread for poor starving souls to feed upon and live forever.” “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12 ). And so, dear friends, the great question for every one of us to decide is this, “Have I definitely received Christ?” When we eat our natural food it becomes part of us and gives new strength and life. In the same way when we receive the Bread of God, when we take the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and our hearts dwell upon the work that He did for us upon the cross, we gain new strength and life.

 

“I am the living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:51-52 ). They seemed to be unable to rise above the natural. Our Lord’s words were clear enough. Anyone who comes to God as a repentant sinner will have no difficulty in understanding this. But the sneering legalist exclaims, “Eat His flesh! It is absurd! How can a man give us his flesh to eat?” So the Lord Jesus Christ seemed to say, “Well, if you refuse to believe Me, if you will not come to Me, I will tell you something even more difficult to believe.” If men will not take what He has already told them, then He will give them something harder to comprehend.

 

So He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him” (vv. 53-56). What striking expressions these are, and how difficult for an unbelieving Israelite to understand! What did He mean by “eating his flesh and drinking his blood”? Of course, the words cannot be taken literally. He certainly did not mean that they were to feed upon His actual body and blood.

 

In the law the children of Israel were forbidden to eat blood in any form or manner. Every kind of flesh that they ate was to have every drop of blood poured out. Yet Jesus speaks of eating blood and, amazing thought, His own blood-the blood of a man! He did not mean that literally. He meant to challenge them, to make them see their ignorance and need of enlightenment. Apparently, His words had no such effect. Neither did He mean that He was to give His flesh and blood in some mysterious sacrament. I know that many suppose He referred to the Lord’s Supper, in which they tell us the bread and wine, after the prayer of the officiating minister, pass through some mysterious change, so that as people partake of it they will be partaking actually of Jesus’ body and blood.

 

But let me say this: millions of people have partaken of what is known as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist, the Communion, the Sacrifice of the Mass-different names have been used-millions of people have partaken of it who have never received life through it. They give no evidence of having received life through it. They can partake of it Sunday morning and live in sin Sunday afternoon. There is no evidence whatever that they have been born again. Sacraments do not give life. But let me tell you this: no one ever ate and drank of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ without receiving life. He promised that, and it is true. His Word has been fulfilled down through the centuries.

 

What did He mean? Well, throughout the church age He has shown us that to eat of the Bread of life is to receive Him in faith. It is to receive implicitly what Holy Scripture reveals concerning the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, that upon the tree His precious body was given up for us and His blood was poured out for our redemption. When we recognize that His precious blood poured out on the cross has atoned for our sins, then we are eating His flesh and we are drinking His blood. And it is practically true that in the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper we do have that which calls our minds back again to Calvary and reminds us again of the price of redemption. We may recognize the relationship between the communion and this precious truth. But do not confound the symbol with the reality. As we feed in faith upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we lose our appetite for everything unholy. That same precious body and blood will be our meat and drink through all the days to come, and when we get to yonder glory we shall still be occupied with Him, the Lamb that was slain. “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”

 

 


Verses 57-71

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

This sixth chapter of John ’s gospel with its seventy-one verses is the longest chapter in this marvelous book telling of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Someone has called John’s gospel the most wonderful book in the world, and perhaps this is its most wonderful chapter. It would have been more helpful if we could have taken the whole chapter at once, but there is so much in it that it is impossible to do this in thirty-five or forty minutes, so we have had to break it up. But I hope that this will not result in our losing sight of the setting.

 

Jesus had fed the multitude, and the next day people came to Him hinting that they would like to get another meal in the same way. They said, “What sign do you show? Our fathers did eat manna in the wilderness. We heard you did this yesterday. Are you prepared to do the same thing today?” But Jesus took the occasion to show them that there was something far more important than providing food for the body. We are told, “Man [does] not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This was true even of the Son of Man who came to give His life a ransom for the world. And in this chapter He expresses the mystery of His incarnation.

 

The Bread of God is He who came down from heaven. In other words, He did not just begin to live when begotten in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He was the preexistent Son of God who became Man for our redemption. And it is in His incarnation, that is, God and Man in the wonderful person of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is presented to us as the Bread of God. Then He speaks of something deeper, something more serious. He says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (v. 53). And in saying this, He used terms that must at first have been abhorrent to some of those Jews, for they knew that the law said that man was never to eat blood. But He declared, “You must eat My flesh and drink My blood if you would have life, and I will raise you up in the last day. If you do not eat and drink My flesh and blood you will have no life in you at all.”

 

This has no reference to what is called the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. It had not been instituted at this time. But He referred to His sacrificial death when His blood was separated from His body and His blood shed for sinners, and men must eat His flesh and drink His blood, that is, they must appropriate the value of His atoning work in order to avail themselves of God’s salvation. Eating the flesh of the Son of God and drinking His blood are figurative expressions, and they mean laying hold of these precious truths by faith and making them our own.

 

Eating is appropriating faith. Have you all done that? Have you received the Lord Jesus Christ in that way? Have you trusted Him for salvation? Do you recognize that His death was for you, that the shedding of His blood was that your sins might be put away? As you contemplate that cross-an empty cross now, He who hung suspended on the nails is now seated at God’s right hand- and as you look from that empty cross to the throne of God can you say, “Lord Jesus, Your blood was shed for me. I believe in You as my Savior”? This is to eat His flesh and drink His blood. It is not simply a momentary thing.

 

It is not that just at one particular time in our lives when troubled and convicted of sin we receive Him by faith, but it is living day by day in communion with Him, appropriating all that Christ is and all that He has done. This is indeed to feed upon the living Bread. And we do that as we meditate upon the Word of God. I do not know of any other way by which we may feed upon the living Bread. Those of us who have acquainted ourselves with the Word in the times of good health find that memory will bring up the words when we are sick, and thus we feed that which we have already learned. How important then when we are able to read the Word when we are strong and well that we give ourselves to the extensive study of this Book, to meditate upon it, to build us up and nurture us, as Scripture puts it, in the words of faith and sound teaching. We need this in order to enter into and enjoy communion with our Lord.

 

In verse 57 He says, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” That is communion. The Lord Jesus Christ as a Man here in this world lived in daily communion with the Father, and it is wonderful to think that He studied His Bible just as He calls upon us to search the Scriptures. We read in Psalm 16 how the blessed Lord was speaking to the Father and He said, “My goodness extendeth not to thee; but to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight” (vv. 2-3). There He was, as Man on earth, looking up to the Father, not pleading His own merit, save on behalf of others, and yet living in daily communion with God.

 

The prophet Isaiah (chap. 50) gives a wonderful illustration of His living by faith. There He says in verse 2, “Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.” Who is speaking here? The eternal God, the Creator and Upholder of all things. But which person of the Godhead? Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, for look at the next verses (vv. 4-6), where He speaks as Man. In verses 2-3 He speaks as God. But now we hear Him saying, “The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned” (v. 4).

 

This is the same One who said, “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering” (Isaiah 50:3 ). He took the place of a learner that He should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. I like Leeser’s Jewish translation here which reads, “That I should know how to comfort the weary with the Word.” Think of it! The Lord Jesus here on earth studying the Bible day by day in order that He should know how to speak a word in season to weary souls for their own comfort and help.

 

Then He adds, “Morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.” Three times we read in Scripture of the pierced or opened ear. There is that wonderful type of the bondservant who had served out his time and was now ready to go out free. But we are told in the book of Exodus, “If the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free” (21:5), then he was to take him to the side of the door and pierce the servant’s ear with an awl. Thus he became a perpetual servant. When one of his little ones would look at that ear and say, “Mother, why has father such an ugly hole in his ear?” She would say, “Oh, don’t call that ugly! That tells how much he loves you and me! You see, he was a bondman and could have gone out free, but he would not leave us, so his ears were pierced with an awl.” This is a picture of our blessed Lord in glory with the print of the nails still in His hands, the scars that tell of His unchanging love for His Father and His church. Yes, He is the Servant with the pierced ear.

 

Then again He says in Psalms 40:6 , “Mine ears hast thou opened,” and in the New Testament that is changed to, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me” (Hebrews 10:5 ). It meant this-when the Lord Jesus was one with the Father before the incarnation, He never had to take orders from anyone. He did not need the servant’s ear. But when He became a Man, He took the servant’s place and received instructions from the Father day by day. “For I came… not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). And here in Isaiah 50:5 He says, “The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.” Oh, we get so rebellious. God begins to show what He would have us do, and we become rebellious.

 

It was never so with Him, for He lived in daily, hourly, momentary communion with the Father and delighted in the will of God. See what it brought Him. He says, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6 ). Think of it! The One who could say, “I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering” (v. 3). Now He says, “I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” So we see Him in the two natures of God and Man. And as Man here on earth He lived in communion with the Father. “And I live by the Father.” So he who appropriates Him by faith day by day, even he shall live by Him. Paul expresses this when he says, “I [have been] crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20 a). That was eating Christ-that was making Christ his own and part of himself, as it were. “Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (v. 20b).

 

We become in large measure like the food we eat. Someone has said, “What we eat, we are.” One who is really feeding on Christ will become like Him. Such a person will manifest His purity, goodness, tenderness, compassion, His kind interest in others. You take a professing Christian who is hard and bitter and critical of others, and you know he hasn’t been feeding on Christ for a long time. That tells the story. You take a Christian who is drifting into worldliness and carelessness, who is becoming vain and haughty and self-centered-he has not been feeding on Christ. The Word says, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 ). That is the humble mind, the lowly mind. It is the mind that thinks of others, and says, “Never mind me.” This is not natural to us, but it is developed in us as we feed upon our blessed Lord. And this is to be our portion forever. So He continues, “This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever” (John 6:58).

 

But when the people heard this, it troubled them. Many had gone with Him that far and had recognized in Him a wonderful prophet. They were asking themselves, “Is not this the Messiah?” They were listening to His teachings and following Him, but when He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, when He opened up this wonderful truth of His atonement, it began to trouble them. They were looking for a great world ruler who would deliver them from the Romans and make them the first nation in the world. They were not prepared for what He talked of-dying, giving His life for the world.

 

When they heard this they said, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (v. 60). There are many like that today. They are willing to take Jesus as a great Teacher. They are ready to acknowledge that in His life He has given us a wonderful example, and they talk about trying to follow in His steps, but they do not own His Saviorhood. They do not want His vicarious atonement. They are not willing or ready to believe that in Jesus we have God and Man in one blessed person. They are ready to think of Him as a martyr for truth, but they are not ready to admit that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. There is no life in them, for there is no new birth unless one receives Him as the incarnate Son of God, dying on the cross for our redemption. And so today there are many who would turn away from this truth saying, “This is an hard saying; who can hear it?”

 

Jesus knew what they were saying and said, “Doth this offend you? Does this cause you to stumble because I have told you that I have come down from heaven and become Man? Because I tell you that I am going to die that man might be saved. Does this make you stumble? I will tell you something more-some day I am going to ascend, as Man, into heaven.” You see, when men resist the truth the Lord Jesus makes it harder for them, but when they will receive the truth, then He makes it very simple.

 

So, now, He makes it far more difficult than before: “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (v. 62). “Oh,” they would say, “we can’t believe that, that Jesus, as Man, should ascend up into heaven.” Yet that is just what took place in God’s due time. God raised Him from the dead, and He was taken up. Four times in the first chapter of the book of Acts we get that phrase. And He sits now at the right hand of God. Some people believe that a great change took place in Christ’s body as He was taken up after His death. They think of Him as some strange mysterious spirit without a material human body, but you remember He Himself said, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39 ). There was a physical form. He had poured out His blood for our redemption, but He is there in heaven in a body-in the same body that hung upon the cross. He is the Man Christ Jesus at God’s right hand today. When we see Him we shall look up into the face of a Man, we shall grasp the hand of a Man, but we shall recognize a nail print in that hand. He will bear it through eternity.

 

“What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” Could you believe that? But, He says, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh proflteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). It is only as we receive His words in faith that we can lay hold of eternal truth. The flesh, unless moved upon by divine grace, will not understand. His words are foolishness unto the natural man, because they are supernaturally discerned. But these words are spirit and truth. When you open your heart to receive them, a new life is created, and you are able to take them in.

 

“But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not.” He knew what was going on in the hearts of men. He knew whenever anyone made a profession that wasn’t real. He knows today. The Son of God knows whether you are genuine or not. Your friends may not know. Those you are close to may not know, but He knows whether you have really put your trust in Him, the Bread of God that comes down from heaven. Let us seek to be real before Him. Let us not rely on mere profession, it will not avail in that day. There must be reality. “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (v. 65). And does that then shut anybody out? Does it make it impossible for some men to come? Does it mean then that there are some that God has decreed may come and some that may not? No. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (v. 37). All may come if they will, but apart from the drawing of the Father none would come.

 

Well, this seemed like “strong meat” for many, and we read, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (v. 66). They had kept company with Him up to that time. They hoped from day to day that He would put Himself at the head of the Jews, that He would lead them on to glorious victories, but now their hopes were dashed. They didn’t understand His words about dying and ascending to heaven. This is not the Messiah that they were looking for. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve whom He had officially selected and asked, “Will ye also go away?” (v. 67). They had seen Him in prayer. They had listened to His teaching and apparently had received His Word in their hearts. They knew His power. Alas, even of them there was one who had a devil.

 

“Will ye also go away?” or, “Do you desire to go away also? Are you ready to leave Me? Have I told you more than you are ready to receive? Do you want to go away?” And then Peter speaks up-and we think of him as being so rash and speaking up out of place, and yet so many times he speaks up in such earnestness and faith that our hearts rejoice. How ready he was to speak out in Caesarea Philippi. And then he answered and said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (v. 68). As much as to say, “There is no one that we can go to. We can’t turn to the sages of old or to the scribes. They cannot give us what You have given. “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Oh, hear it, dear friends! No one but Jesus can give us the knowledge of God. As you trust Him, as you receive Him and feed upon this living Bread, you shall have life eternal.

 

But now Jesus looks compassionately upon the Twelve, knows of the Eleven that are genuine, and knows of the one that is not real. And He says, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil [or, is sold out to Satan]?” (v. 70). What privileges and opportunities they had, and yet one of them had never opened his heart to the truth. What a terrible thing! Dear friends, I wonder if there is anyone like that here today. You profess to be a Christian, and yet all through the years Jesus has never been to you a Savior from sin. You have never definitely united your soul to Him. You have never bowed before God as a repentant sinner. Oh, I beg of you, before your doom is sealed, and you have to share the fate of Judas, I beg of you, come to His feet, confessing your sin and guilt. Judas never came. Judas never received the Word. So at last he went to his own place in everlasting darkness.

 

“He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (v. 71). Judas was one of those who kept company with Him so intimately through the years, but he will be separated from Him for eternity. Oh, God, give us to be geuine, to feed upon the living Bread that comes down from heaven.

 

1 Owing to the fact that this address was given to many who were not present on earlier occasions, there is some repetition which I have thought best not to alter.

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 6:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/john-6.html. 1914.


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Friday, January 19th, 2018
the Second Week after Epiphany
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